Waking up to a beautifully clear morning, who would have thought? It was simply a new day. An unknown identity arrives at work somewhere up around the 93rd floor of Tower One, World Trade Center. Settling in at his/her desk, perhaps pouring a cup of coffee, he/she gazes out the window and marvels at the splendor of it all. From near the top of the tallest building, in the largest city, in the greatest Nation, he/she is practically on top of the World. But, it probably isn’t even thought of. It’s a day much like any other. Suddenly, between sips of coffee, an object is seen bearing down on the building. As it rapidly approaches, it quickly becomes identifiable as a large jet. The roar becomes deafening. Glass shatters. Steel bends. Flame bursts out everywhere. Flesh is ripped apart & shredded. It all happens in a fleeting moment. How much of that was actually absorbed by the human mind, no one will ever know.It was September, 11. 9-11. Should we have been surprised?Similarly, my day began in much the same way. It was an absolutely gorgeous Tuesday morning here in western North Carolina … clear, blue skies, low humidity … Little did I know what lay ahead this day. Arriving at the Post Office for work at 8AM, one of the Rural Carriers walked by me and said, “Happy 911 Day!” “Huh?” I wasn’t even thinking of that, but after he made me aware, I chuckled.
It was 9:15AM and I was working the window, as I normally am at that hour. A customer came in to mail a couple of packages. “Did you hear what happened in NYC?” she asked. I shook my head. “They think a missile hit the World Trade Center!” she exclaimed. “What?!?” Another customer came in during this exchange. “No,” he said. “It was a plane.”
I rationalized. Having lived in that area for nearly 40 years, I knew small planes & helicopters flew around there all the time. Obviously, one ventured too close & clipped a wing. A tragedy, but no big deal … in light of the truth to come.
A few minutes later, another customer came in. “Two jets crashed into the World Trade Center!!!!” “My, how stories grow!” I thought.
But, he was serious. He told me the story. I went in the back, and as carriers were calmly casing their mail, I informed everyone of what I had heard. I don’t think anyone took it all that seriously. Either did I, for that matter. This just couldn’t be.
Shortly later, I was called to the phone. It was Elaine. “Do you know what’s happening?” she asked. “Yeah, a plane or something hit the World Trade Center.” “Two jets … now they’ve hit the Pentagon.” “Ok, I gotta go.” I had to get back to the customers. Suddenly, it hit me. A chill ran through my body like no other I’ve ever experienced as the realization that America was being attacked ran through me. Excusing myself from a customer, I went in the back again, and announced what I knew. This time, a grim hush spread through the building. Everyone stopped what they were doing …
I tried to return to work, but the chill wouldn’t go away. Then, the realization that SOMEONE I knew worked in the WTC struck me. I couldn’t think of who … I called Elaine back … “Yes, my brother, Dominick. He called to say he was ok but then the phone went dead.” I could hear the restrained fear in her voice. “Oh my God!” Then, in the background, I could hear my son screaming, “Come look at this! It’s coming down!” I closed out my cash drawer and went home to be with Elaine.
I walked in the house in time to see the second tower crumble to the ground.I sat there in stunned silence and tried to take it all in. That was the city I was born in … my hometown. I had been in those buildings, walked below them in their great shadow. How many people must’ve been killed?
Reports of a 4th plane were heard. Then, a crash. My first reaction was that our jet fighters had shot it down, but as time passed, there was no report of this. I thought of how it could’ve come down. Obviously, a field in rural Pennsylvania couldn’t have been its intended target. I thought of a passenger uprising. It must be. The people on that flight will go down as heroes, and they will deserve every accolade that comes their way. For unless the “black” boxes indicate some coincidental malfunction, surely that is what happened.
My life will never be the same. I will never see things in quite the same way … ever.
For the first time in my life, I can feel good about my Country’s military actions … whatever they may be down the road. I remember, back in the Vietnam days, thinking, even as I protested against it, that I surely would feel differently if we were under attack. And that is what has happened. America, my home, was attacked. My fellow citizens, were killed, on our own soil.
It still hasn’t completely sunk in, but I know this … if we could go through the measures we have over the years – during my lifetime -to defend OTHER countries’ borders & freedoms, than we can do no less for ourselves … and hopefully, a lot more. Restraint & warnings have obviously done no good. It is time to act with a strong & unrelenting hand. To do less would allow the thousands who have perished to have died in vain. We must make their deaths worthwhile, even as we prevent more innocents from perishing. This is a “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!” situation. It will not end by turning the other cheek. History shows us … the Middle East is THE hot bed of unrest in the World – through all of recorded history. Terrorism, against the U.S., has escalated in severity through the past decades. What is next? I don’t want to find out!
Some of you may remember me saying on this very Board that I wasn’t voting in the past Presidential election. I thought then that both candidates were “morons.” I no longer feel that way. President Bush, I believe, may be just the right man for this time. He is surrounded by competent veterans of the Gulf War. He showed me something that no other President has ever showed me – in my lifetime – genuine emotion and depth of feeling. He has my support. I am prepared to make whatever sacrifices the citizenry of this country are called upon to make. I will do so gleefully, no matter what they are. This is a War for Justice.
To all of you … As was the case here, these tragedies may directly hit home. I still fear that SOMEONE I knew – someone I went to school with; someone I worked with – will be among the dead when all the names are eventually known. Stay strong. Keep praying. Stick together.
For me, I say again, I am forever changed. September 11, 2001 is a date I will never forget. The images, the shock, the sorrow, the anger … will never leave me. I don’t want it to. I don’t want to forget. Ever.
It WAS a new day!